Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke announced a plan to forgive 100% of student loan debt for all public school teachers, as part of a far-reaching plan for massive investment in public education.
O'Rourke, a Democrat from Texas, said Friday that debt forgiveness would be a way to recognize teachers' dedication to their students and allow them to concentrate fully on their work with their students.
"Those educators struggling under these conditions, providing that kind of wraparound care for every child entrusted within their care, I want to make sure they can focus on that job, that child in front of them and not have to work a second or third job, as so many do," he said at a candidate forum organized by the National Education Association.
O'Rourke started out the 2020 presidential campaign as a rising Democratic star following his close loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the red state of Texas last year. Since then, he has fallen behind in polls and has bolstered his offering of policy proposals.
At the forum Friday, O'Rourke also called for a massive influx of cash into the public school system, including a $500 billion education fund aimed at decreasing disparities between majority-minority and majority-white school districts, among other areas.
Other aspects of the education plan O'Rourke announced at the forum include guaranteeing all teachers the right to organize, offering universal pre-kindergarten education, and increasing investment in historically black colleges and universities and minority education.
He also pledged that he would not allow any taxpayer dollars to be spent on school vouchers or private schools.
This proposal goes further than O'Rourke's previously announced education plans, which focused primarily on college affordability.
He said he would provide two years of debt-free public or community college for all Americans, according to PBS.
The federal government currently offers a public service loan forgiveness program, but it has strict requirements limiting who can access it. Only 864 of the more than 70,000 applicants for the program have been accepted, according to a March report from the U.S. Department of Education.